The first time Spock saw his mother preparing the candles and menorah for Hanukkah, he brought her a flashlight.
“Mother, as I am sure you are aware, this device will light our home more efficiently than candles during a power outage, and it is substantially less likely to cause an accidental fire.”
Both of his small hands were wrapped around the handle of the flashlight, and the delicate tendons of his wrists stood out with the effort of holding it. He'd gotten the big emergency model from the garage, then.
Crouching low, she took the flashlight gently from his hands.
“Your forethought is admirable, Spock,” she said, adopting the solemn attitude of his pre-school instructors. Then she smiled. “The power probably won't go out today though, so let's put this back where it belongs.”
Amanda pretended not to notice the worried look he cast toward the sky. Last week, a sudden sandstorm had caught the city unawares and knocked out the electricity for half a day. She had found Spock crouched beneath the lowest shelf in the pantry and reassured him that it was very logical to wait out the storm in a place where there was ample food.
“Mother, if you are not preparing for a power outage, what is the purpose of the...the...”
Amanda waited patiently while Spock fumbled for the word. He didn't like it when she supplied them for him.
“...the object for holding the candles?” He finished finally. He suppressed the triumphant grin, but she could see it in the way he looked at her out of the corner of his eye, checking to see if she was pleased with his ingenuity.
“It's called a menorah, Spock. It doesn't have a practical purpose. It's for celebrating a religious festival called Hanukkah.”
“Why have we not celebrated this festival before?” He pauses, looking at her surreptitiously again from the corner of his eye. “I am certain we have not celebrated it previously. I attained an eidetic memory at the age of two.”
This was a point of anxiety for Spock. She made a point of not comparing him to his Vulcan peers, but he had downloaded a calendar of developmental milestones and monitored his progress independently.
“That's right, Spock. You would have remembered if we had celebrated Hanukkah before. I'm afraid I haven't been very observant.”
“You are very observant, Mother. You observed that I cut my finger and insisted upon disrupting my study to treat it. You are observant of the prices in the grocery store, the seasonality of fresh produce, and the appropriate cooking time of a variety of grains.”
“But I have not been observant of my family's religion.”
Perhaps she ought to have been, but then, she had come to Vulcan when she was young and determined to leave behind everything she knew. Now, she wondered if she had been too hasty, thrown away too much.
“Are you becoming observant now because Grandmother is dead?”
“That's very perceptive of you, Spock. How did you figure that out?”
She blinked for a moment to keep back her tears. She had not expected that Spock would understand something so emotional, or that he would bring it up in such blunt terms if he did.
“This object was not in our home before. I am sure of it.”
“You're right.” She ran a finger over the base, still scratched and dented though she had polished it several times. “It's been in our family for many years.”
“And now it is yours, because you are the eldest.”
And because she needed it the most. That was what her sister had said, that she should take it because she lived so far away from the rest of the family and its memories and traditions.
“What will we do with this menorah?” Spock asked, distracting her from her reminiscing.
“Each day at sunset, we will light one more candle, and we will place it in a window so that our neighbors can see it.”
“I see.” Spock's eyes slid hopefully toward the stove, where her cast iron skillet is always at the ready. “Will this religious festival be accompanied by traditional food?” He paused, then added, “My teacher says it is acceptable to consume unhealthy foods if it is necessary to honor an interplanetary cultural celebration.”
She smiled at that. She had inherited her mother's recipe collection along with the menorah.
“I'll make you some potato pancakes tomorrow. Would you like to light this evening's candle?”
“Yes,” he announced decisively, but his brow furrowed a second later. “But not tonight. I will watch you do it so I can be sure to perform the ritual correctly.”
Together, they watched the sun sink behind the flat expanse of desert behind their house. Now that the sky's red light had faded, the view was probably not so different from what her ancestors had seen when they first celebrated Hannukah. Spock watched her wide, curious eyes as she lit the shamash and recited the prayers. Her mother would have been overjoyed to have such a dedicated pupil, even if he had declared at the age of four that belief in an omnipotent god was an illogical, emotional delusion. She ought to have brought Spock home for this before, she thought. Her mother would have loved it, but at the time, she had thought it silly to disrupt Spock's schooling for a religious holiday she did not even celebrate.
“Mother, do you miss your mother?” Spock asked as she lit the candle furthest to the right.
“Yes, Spock, I do.”
He touched two of his fingers to two of hers.
“Mother, I grieve with thee.”
Spock studies the menorah in the center of his small dining table. While the materials were non-traditional – he had made it from surplus metal tubing found in engineering – he believed it was a suitable facsimile. However, in spite of his repeated attempts at alteration, he had not found a way to hold it stable on the Enterprise's curved window sills.
The door opens behind him and Nyota enters. She appears confused by the menorah.
“Spock. I didn't know you were Jewish.”
“I am not. I regard belief in an omnipotent god to be an illogical and emotional delusion, as did my mother. However, she celebrated this religious ritual in honor of her own mother.”
“Oh.” Nyota's eyes soften, instantly communicating her understanding. He appreciates that she recognizes the emotional implications of his statement without speaking them aloud. She is the only person, human or Vulcan, he has encountered who is considerate in this way; he is fortunate to have found her.
“As no sunset is available, I have determined it is best to light the candles at 17:31 ship's time, which is the approximate time of sunset in my mother's home state of Washington.”
Nyota smiles faintly at that.
“I wondered why you asked me to come at precisely 17:27.”
“The human obsession with numbers ending at zero and five is illogical,” he says softly, and she comes to stand beside him.
“What do we do?”
“Each day at sunset, we will first light the shamash candle. On the first day of the festival, we will light the furthest candle on the right, and on the second day, we will light the two furthest candles on the right, and so on until each candle has been lit.”
A small alarm chimes on the table, and Nyota looks surprised. His internal chronometer is usually flawless, however, he had thought it best to seek additional aid today; he had observed that his attention to time became somewhat less reliable when he thought about his mother, or when he was conversing with Nyota.
“It is time to begin the ritual,” he says, picking up the ceremonial lighter he uses with his meditation candle.
Lighting the shamash proceeds smoothly, however, he stumbles over the Hebrew prayers. In spite of his repeated practice, the unfamiliar language is difficult to pronounce, and he struggles against an unfamiliar tightness in his throat. Perhaps he had overindulged in Hannukah foods that were richer than his normal diet.
Fortunately, Nyota joins the recitation with him. Her pronunciation is flawless, and her superior singing voice lends the prayers a musical cadence which he was unable to produce. When he raises the shamash to light the next candle, he finds that his hand is unsteady even though he has performed no rigorous exercise today. Nyota lays her hand gently over his wrist, and he finds that her cool touch anchors and strengthens him so that the flame is steady when he finally lights the candle.
“Spock,” she whispers, “I grieve with thee.”